Smoke doesn't usually come to mind when you think of Chinese cuisine but that's exactly what co-owners Narada Kudinar and chef Raymond Lim (ex-Attica and Les Amis in Singapore) are doing at Yan Restaurant. It's the newest eatery to open in Wolli Creek, located a short stroll from the proliferation of apartment high rises now clustered around the train station.
Yan isn't their first collaboration. They're also the brains behind sandwich cafe John Montagu in Woolloomooloo as well as the recently closed Ms Murray on Liverpool Street in the Sydney CBD.
Squid with Szechuan pepper, salt and lime $15
Combining the traditional smoky flavours you'd find in American barbecue with the balancing act that is Chinese cuisine has been a steep learning curve for both. A smoked char siu is one dish they're still working on and trying to perfect. And if you hadn't already guessed it by now, Yan or 煙 means smoke in Chinese.
For now, diners can tuck into smoked chicken thigh fillet, lamb ribs and pork belly rounded out by a number of small plates and sides.
The squid with Szechuan pepper, salt and lime is a tasty place to start. The pineapple-scored squid is impressively tender, dusted with a thin layer of flour and deep-fried. A tumble of sesame seeds and spices includes plenty of Szechuan pepper for that tingling mouth-numbing effect.
Mussels with homemade chilli sauce and bao
The kitchen sends out a complimentary tasting of the mussels with homemade chilli sauce for the three of us, and I'm so glad they do. I'd erroneously underestimated this dish but it turns out to be one of my highlights of the night. The mussels are plump and brinily sharp in their freshness, cooked so they're still juicy, before being smothered in a rustic homemade chilli sauce that's equal parts sweetness and zing.
Housemade bao are nothing to sniff at either. The pillowy soft buns are a cloud of fluffiness, ideal for tearing up and soaking up all of that sticky chilli sauce.
Smoked lamb ribs and Asian chimichurri $24
Smoked lamb ribs are succulent and fall-off-the-bone juicy, crusted with a dry rub of cumin. The Asian chimichurri uses the garlic, chilli and shallots you'd expect of the South American original but incorporates Asian influences of soy sauce and sesame seeds too.
Smoked pork belly $26
On the other half of the plate we feast on smoked pork belly, not noticeably smoky in flavour despite the use of applewood, but still tempting with its caramelised char along its fatty edges.
Pear and cucumber slaw with sweet chilli pickle dressing $8
Pear and cucumber slaw helps cut through the richness of the meat, more of a pickle than the julienned salad I expected. Its sweet and tangy crunch provides an ideal palate cleanser.
Sauteed Asian greens with sesame dressing $8
Sauteed Asian greens help up our folic acid intake, a small mound of choy sum vegetables blanketed in a nutty sesame dressing.
Grilled wagyu striploin MBS7+ 200grams $46
And while $46 might seem a little steep for 200 grams of wagyu striploin, trust me, it's worth the splurge. The beef is cooked to a perfect shade of pink, seared on the outside so there's a caramelised crust.
Each chew of this prime marbled beef sets off a minor explosion of fatty juiciness. It really is cooked in the hands of a master. You won't need any of the Asian chimichurri on the side but it's there if you want it.
Deconstructed lime pavlova $15
ginger pandan jelly and lychee ice cream
We were going to order just one dessert but the kitchen insists we try both. The deconstructed lime pavlova enables diners to mix and match different flavours and textures as they go. We dip and dive between quivering hunks of ginger pandan jelly, giant shards of meringue and the tropical refreshment of lychee ice cream. I would say my favourite ingredient in pavlova - cream - was sorely missing but that probably says more about my obsession with cream than anything else.
Coconut 2 ways $15
Coconut lovers will adore the coconut 2 ways. It's a coconut upon coconut celebration of coconut jelly, coconut ice cream and toasted coconut shreds piled into a young coconut. Scraping out the young coconut flesh and eating it together with everything else only adds to the fun.
There are currently about 30 seats in this casual neighbourhood eatery but Kudinar tells us they'll be adding outdoor seating soon. Adding breakfast and lunchtime service is also on the cards - for now they're only open for dinner.
Over the coming months they hope to expand and open up a shop next door. The big plan is to sell smoked meats for people to take home as well as the option of smoked meat sandwiches to takeaway. Sounds smokingly good to me.
Shop G03, 19 Arncliffe Street, Wolli Creek, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9599 8712
Wednesday to Sunday 5.30pm-9.30pm
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2/04/2017 12:00:00 pm